Essendon, its 34 current and former players and James Hird have warned ASADA they will seek an injunction that would stop the issuing of infraction notices if the drugs body does not halt the investigation.
Lawyers representing Essendon, the 34 players with show cause notices and Hird have each sent letters to ASADA today requesting a halt to the investigation, or it will seek what sources said was ”an urgent injuction” to have any further action – such as infraction notices – stopped.
Those representing Essendon, the players and Hird want ASADA to allow their case to be determined in the Federal court before ASADA takes any further action. The AFL, on the recommendation of an independent doping panel, could issue infraction notices before the case is heard – an outcome that the club, the players and exiled coach are seeking to prevent.
ASADA only has to give the players 10 days to respond to the show cause notices, prompting the players to ask for an extension – which ASADA said it is considering.
The Federal court hearing is due to begin on June 27, meaning that ASADA could issue infractions before the matter is heard. Essendon is seeking to challenge the legality of the joint AFL-ASADA investigation, and to have the investigation shut down. The club contends that the joint investigation was unlawful.
Essendon wanted an answer from ASADA by 10am Thursday, while the legal team acting for the players requested a response earlier, by 5pm Wednesday. ASADA had not yet responded to a previous request by the club. The letters suggest that each party will injunct ASADA if it does not comply with their wish.
Essendon and the players’ legal teams – and those of Hird – have been united in their wish to have the case heard in the Federal court, where Justice Middleton will preside. The AFL has said Essendon is entitled to take legal action as it sees fit and has largely stayed out of the conflict between the club and the drugs body, whose chief executive Ben McDevitt has been forceful in his public comments since the show cause notices were sent out.
Essendon is being acted for by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and Peter Young, QC, while the players’ legal team is spearheaded by Tony Hargraves and David Grace, QC, with the AFL Players’ Association’s legal counsel Brett Murphy supporting them. Hird is being represented by Steven Amendola, with constitutional law specialist Peter Hanks, QC, and Nick Harrington also in the coach’s legal corner.
ASADA’s chief executive can grant an extension for the players to respond to the show cause notices, recognising the difficulties that players may have in responding to the notices in that time.